February 29, 2012

An Extraordinary Testimony

It has snowed here today. Only a very little bit, but it is still snow. My little munchkins are all out playing in it, and I'm sitting in my comfy chair with a warm fire and a hot cup of coffee enjoying their laughter. Today, I am especially grateful for my kiddos and all the laughter, and messes, and fun, and messes, and kisses, and even more messes they bring into my life. I'm especially thankful today because I know of one family who has spent this last week grieving because their little three year old daughter will never kiss them again or say "I love you" again or even make another mess for them to clean up.

I have never met this missionary family, but the testimony that they have shared through this time of unbelievable sorrow in their life has made me see how very blessed I am and how very ashamed I should be when I complain to myself about all the messes my five children bring me. Take a minute to connect to this link and watch this father's extraordinary testimony as He tells about his little girl and the burden he continues to have for the lost people in this world. I am more certain today than ever before that God is sovereign. He has a plan for each of us, and He will give us strength and grace to accomplish His plan...even if that plan includes bringing our children back home to Him. After you have watched this video, would you take a minute to pray for this family and to give to God anything you have been keeping back from Him? He can use us in such wonderful ways if we will be willing. Is there anything in your life that is keeping God from using you to be a part of His wonderful plan?

Part 2: Father Speaks About Loss Of 3-Year-Old - Video - WXII The Triad

February 27, 2012

Relationships and Letters...

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on being intentional in our relationships. (Click here to read the post.) In that post, I mentioned that I was focusing on one person in my family each day to help strengthen, grow, encourage and affirm them. It was a lofty goal...a needed goal..., but I really struggled with actually being able to always take the time to pull that person aside and have one on one time with them, and, being human, I have to admit, that many days I would lose my focus and just out and out forget to take time with that person. I am excited to say that God gave me a wonderful idea which I have begun implementing. It has worked so beautifully for me. So, I thought I would share it with you.

A very simple idea, really....Each morning, I pray specifically for that one person (see here for the method of praying I am using for all my kiddos and my mister), and then, at the close of my quiet time, I write that person a letter. It's usually a fairly short note, but it lets them know that I am praying for them. In the letter, I always mention several things that I love about them, tell of the ways that I see God using them or thank them for things I have seen them do. Then I tell them one thing that I am praying about specifically for them. My kiddos (and even the Mr.) have LOVED this. They think it's so neat to wake up with a letter from me once each week. It has also been a great way for me to kind of "journal" with and about them. (I always sneak the letters back and put them away in a safe place! :) )

I leave the letters on what is supposed to be a wire photo holder, but we have always used it for our "mailbox." I hope to advance to something a little more elegant than notebook paper in the near future, but for works! :)

This has worked beautifully for me, but I do realize that not every one enjoys putting their thoughts on paper the way I do. I would encourage you to find what works for you. Be creative. Ask God to give you an idea. The big point is to be willing to take a few minutes out of the day to do whatever it takes to focus on relationships. We humans have become so busy with life that we forget that the entire reason we were even created by God was to have a relationship with Him! Relationships are extraordinarily important to God. Jesus spent his entire ministry focusing on relationships. We need to follow His example and make the time to develop our relationships so that we can share God's love and grace with the people God has placed in our lives. I would love to hear of ways that you are taking the time to be intentional with the relationships God has given you.

February 24, 2012

The Real Me...

The Real Me:

1. I am a very unrealistic person who always dreams of accomplishing way more than I possibly could.

2. I LOVE chocolate...and Mountain Dew!

3. I cry when I'm tired...even though I'm thirty-something!

4. I had the bright idea to wear a hat on a windy day (because what's the sense of fixing your hair on a windy day?)...About 20 people had the privilege of watching me chase the hat across a store parking lot while carrying the newbie in his car seat and being followed by 5 children screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs! (I had a friend's kiddo with me!)

5. I am a procrastinator...

6. I LOVE reading historical fiction!

7. My funniest Mommy story:
I also had the bright idea of going to the fitting room and leaving all four of my children (the newbie wasn't here yet) in the cart outside the room. One of the children had the bright idea to climb out of the cart and while doing this pulled the entire cart over on its side - of course, blocking the door so that I couldn't get out. I heard the cart fall and all of my children screaming. I was trying to get out but couldn't....It was wild!!! On the way out, a lady stopped me and said, "Your children are so well behaved and quiet!" I honestly laughed out loud because obviously she came into the store after our performance of the three ring circus!

8. My mister is the greatest blessing I have...outside of my Savior!

9. I tend to do before I think (as you can tell from the stories above)!

10. I love that my life always has something crazy in it!

11. My pet peeve is when people fast forward through the musical introduction of a movie!

12. When I'm overwhelmed, I go to the bathroom (the ONLY room in our house with a lock), turn on the water in the tub, and have a good cry or give myself a pep talk! It's very therapeutic! (I've had a lot of "therapy" here lately!) :)

13. I'm an incurable optimist!

14. The more I learn, the more I learn I need to learn more! :)

15. My best friend and I lost our rental car in downtown Milwaukee! We wandered around for hours trying to remember where I parked it....It was only half a block away from our meeting! (Another example of doing before thinking....or, in this case, possibly not even thinking at all!)

16. I had no patience growing up...I believe that's why God gave me 4 children in 4 1/2 years! I still don't have a lot, but I have more than I did! ;)

17. I love fellowship...being with people I love and know well!

18. I am not a risk taker....I leave that to the mr.!

19. I love writing but despise talking on the phone!

20. I love to make people laugh! So, I hope you've laughed a little while reading this post. Have a great weekend everyone! I'm off to get ready for a date with my Miss E. We get to go see a play tonight! :)

February 21, 2012

A Fast and Easy Cobbler

This cobbler is perfect for those Sunday mornings when you forget there is a potluck after church (something I'm famous for doing!)! It's also great with a cup of coffee in the winter or a bowl of ice cream during the summer! Hope you enjoy it!

Quick Peach Cobbler

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 large can peaches
(I have substituted fresh fruit of any kind, and they have all turned out great!)
1 stick butter

Melt butter in glass dish (I use a 9X9 for a thicker cobbler. Nowadays, I double the recipe for a 13X9 pan to feed this growing family of ours.). Mix flour, sugar and milk; add to warm butter. Put peaches and juice on top. Bake at 350* for 35 minutes or until brown. (I almost always end up baking it for close to an hour. I'm not sure if it's my oven or the recipe that's a little off, but you may want to prepare for a little longer bake time.)

February 20, 2012

This Beautiful Thing Called Grace - Part 3

My study of grace has not gone extraordinarily deep, and I'm sure there is much more to discover about it as I grow. I'd love to hear your thoughts on God's grace and how it has changed your life. It is an amazing, beautiful, and, in many ways, unexplainable thing - this grace that has drawn a sinner like me to a God like Him. What am I to do with all of this grace that is so freely given to me?

I think the best place to look for the answer to this question is Jesus Himself. While here on earth, He freely gave of Himself. He poured Himself out to people - continually serving them and meeting their needs. He did all of this not because they deserved it, but only because He loved them, and He wanted to share God's love with them. Are we that kind of person? Are we sharing God's love and giving God's grace everywhere we go and to every person we meet - no matter who they are or where they are. It may be a person who doesn't deserve our kindness or favor, but did we deserve God's? How can we deny someone else the chance to experience this life-changing grace?

As I was studying the word grace, I found that many times God's Word tells us to minister grace with our words (Col. 4:6, Eph. 4:29). An excellent way to show someone grace is by using our tongue to encourage others. How gracious have my words been today? How many times have I missed an opportunity to show my family or friends grace because of the hurtful words I have said? I love the description given of Jesus in Luke 4:22.
And all bare him (Jesus) witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth? ~Luke 4:22a
God has given me so much grace. It's everywhere I look - His creation I enjoy, the breath I take, the music I listen to, the family I have, and it's all because God wanted to lavish me with His love...that I may bring Him glory.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. ~Ephesians 1:4-6
What do I do with this beautiful thing called grace? I become more like my Savior, Jesus Christ so that I can give glory to the Creator and God who gave me this grace. I share this grace with every person I meet - no matter who they are or where they've been. I let this grace carry me, like a river, on the journey of life, knowing that it will always keep me and never fail me as long as I'm willing to rest in it. Isn't God's grace a beautiful thing?

February 16, 2012

The Lesson Learned from Crash and Burn

These last few days have been full of celebration for our family. Our Mr. Personality made his entrance into our family the day before Valentine's Day - FIVE YEARS AGO! So, we celebrated - in full Mr. G style - his fifth birthday! I love this little guy. He keeps everyone laughing and is down deep a sweet and sensitive little guy who will fight to the ends of the earth for what he believes is right (unfortunately, we still need to work on his definition of right in a few areas :) )! We celebrated with a Thomas Train party and ended the day by playing with the big hit present -the Go Fishing game!

We all went to bed - well, everyone but the newbie and mommy that is. He and I got to spend some one on one time until about 2:00 that morning - yeah...not really the one on one time you look forward to. Poor little guy was not happy and had screamed pretty much the entire day all the way into the next morning! It was a LONG day. Then, came the alarm at 6 AM, and I really did need to get up because I needed to get our Valentine's breakfast ready and the Valentine's table set, and we also had a meeting an hour away that I needed to be at. Despite how horrible this all actually wasn't bad at all. God was good and gave me the energy I needed to accomplish everything, and all the kiddos were in good spirits (particularly the newbie)! I was even able to have lunch with a friend, and that's always a special treat!

Moving on to Wednesday. You know, my sister and I have this saying that with kiddos it seems you can only have one good day at a time. Life with children can just never be good two days in a row. So, Wednesday, we'll keep it short and to the point...we crashed and burned...all of us...mommy and all five kiddos! By the time we left shortly after lunch to take Miss E to piano lessons, we had each had our own meltdowns. But I have found that once we all calm down, I can be thankful for even these awful moments in our family life. Thankfully, they don't happen very often (at least not as badly as this one was). I was able to see where I need to change, and some of my kiddos saw where they need to change, and we were all able to make apologies to each other and to God and begin fresh and new. I'm so thankful for God's forgiveness...and for my children's as well.

I write all this because I don't ever want to be guilty of painting an unrealistic picture of my life. Being a home schooling mom of five kiddos leaves me feeling drained, exhausted, pulled in a million different directions and a little more than slightly insane at the end of nearly every day. But it also gives me a joy like no other, a perspective of God and His love that many people miss out on, and a dependency - no a clinging to God like I've never had before. In my own strength, each day would be like this Wednesday. It's taking awhile and a lot of repetition, but slowly, I am learning that I can do nothing in my own strength. When I begin each day looking at my life and my to do list with God's perspective, I can see all the many adventures and opportunities that He has for me and my family, and that's when life becomes an exciting journey instead of a mundane routine!

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ~Philippians 4:13

February 11, 2012

This Beautiful Thing Called Grace - Part 2

I love to think of grace as a river. Even before we see it, we can hear it. God's grace, pulling us, drawing us to Him (John 6:44-45). Once we reach the river of grace, we have to choose whether or not to step into it. After taking that first step into grace - accepting His gift of salvation - we have only just begun the journey.

In II Peter 3:18, Peter tells the Christians to "grow in grace." That implies that there is much more to grace than just an offering of salvation. Titus 2:11 tells us that grace teaches us.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.
If God only gave us His grace through salvation and did not continue to offer us His grace, we would still be living in our selfishness and sinfulness. We are what we are only because of God's grace.
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. ~I Corinthians 15:10
I am so thankful that once I step into that river of grace, it continues to pull and draw, teach and grow, so that I can become more and more like Christ. I am so thankful God did not leave me to try to do it all on my own because, the truth is, I would never be able to. The Bible clearly teaches that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:4-5). It is only through God's amazing grace and work in my life that I can ever do anything that would please Him (Philippians 2:13).

When I allow God's grace to work in me, my life becomes an amazing experience! A life full of watching God work and seeing how He uses so many different things to change me and grow me and pull me to Him despite all my failures. He has promised that He, this wonderful God of grace, will make me perfect in His time.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. ~II Peter 5:10
This grace is such an amazing thing to think on. It's unfathomable to think that my God who is so completely holy and perfect wants to accomplish such a work in me. A work that I can never do without His grace. As Ann Voskamp so perfectly says it, "All is grace." Without the grace of God, I am nothing...can be nothing. There is nothing good in me that deserves this grace. Why would this holy God give this grace so freely? Because He loves simple as that...because my holy God loves a sinner like me.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. ~Ephesians 2:4-7
And the best part is that He WANTS to give me this grace. He WANTS to shew me His kindness. He wants to give me a beautiful life full of abundant joy. It brings Him pleasure to pour out His grace so freely upon my life. Think on that amazing thought as you worship Him, this amazing God of grace, this weekend! And next week, we'll ask ourselves what we should do with all of this grace He so freely gives.

A link to This Beautiful Thing Called Grace - Part 1

February 10, 2012

This Beautiful Thing Called Grace - Part 1

Grace....I have always loved the word and all the pictures that it brings to my mind. I have wanted to do a word study on it for awhile, and I have finally been able to, and let me tell you, grace is far more beautiful than most us know! How about if we start at the beginning...

The definition of the word grace is unmerited favor or kindness. That alone is enough to make me love this word! But, when we place grace in a Biblical context, it becomes so much more. I love Deuteronomy 7:7-8. Although this is an Old Testament verse, it is a beautiful description straight from the mouth of God of His grace.
The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Even though this verse is directed to Israel, it speaks volumes to me. We all know Israel's history. God certainly did not deliver them because of anything they had done! I am so glad God included the phrase "because the Lord loved you." He did not deliver Israel just so that He could say He kept His promise. He delivered Israel because of His love for them! So, it is with me...I have done nothing worthy enough to receive God's grace and favor. It is only because God loves me that He gave grace to me and delivered me from my sin.

Romans 5:23 says that "all have sinned." All of us are sinners. There is not one person who can say they have never done anything wrong. The smallest lie, the seemingly insignificant thoughts, the harsh words...all of these are sin, and we all, have been guilty of these and more. As a matter of fact, we are so bogged down in our sin, that the Bible says we could not even come to Jesus for salvation from our sin if it weren't for God Himself drawing us to Himself (John 6:44-45). Isn't that an amazing thought? A perfect and holy God drawing, pulling, an ugly sinner like me to Him! That, my friend, is grace - beautiful, wonderful grace.

You, see, God's grace is so much bigger than any and all of our sins (Romans 5:19-21)! God's grace can cover them...and will cover them all if we but accept it! Our salvation is all and only through God's grace.
For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:8
What a beautiful gift this salvation is! What a beautiful gift God's grace is! There is nothing I can do, or you can do, to obtain salvation. It is a gift offered to us because, for some crazy, unknown reason, God LOVES us, and He wants us!

But, friends, God's drawing us and pulling us to Him...His offering us this free gift of salvation...this is only the very beginning of this beautiful thing called grace....

A few of God's graces to me:

11. Quiet mornings
12. WHITE bathroom sinks :)
13. A Mr. who can fix anything
14. Beautiful music
15. The imagination my kids have
16. Good books to read
17. Telephone conversations with my family who are thousands of miles away
18. A cold glass of Mt. Dew (just for every now and then) :)
19. The baby swing that keeps the newbie quiet
20. My church family

February 9, 2012

An Exciting Discovery!

Just a quick post to pass on something that I came across today! I have been trying to figure out a way to pray more consistently and intentionally for my Mr. and my kiddos. THIS is PERFECT, and I am SOOOO excited about it! So, I had to share it with you, too! :) Click on the links below, and then let me know what you think of this!

A Prayer Calendar for Your Husband

A Prayer Calendar for Your Children

February 8, 2012

A Great Family Devotional Book

Good Wednesday morning to all of you! I hope you have plans for a wonderful day today! Wednesday is our busy, busy day. We leave right after lunch to head into town for Miss E's piano lessons, and then we spend the afternoon running errands and head to church that evening. It makes for a LONG day and a very RUSHED school morning, but I think we are getting the hang of it (after 5 months - HA! HA!)!

I thought I would let you know about a great family devotional book the Mr. and I have found. It's called Our 24 Family Ways and is written by Clay Clarkson. The Mr. and I have found it to be an excellent book with a wonderful Biblical basis! It covers the topics of authority, relationships, possessions, work, attitudes and choices. Each week, the family is given one Family Way (example: Family Way #1 under the topic of authority: We love and obey our Lord, Jesus Christ, with wholehearted devotion.), one short Bible passage to memorize, and one character trait to go along with the Family Way. The book also includes a devotional for 5 days of the week that develop the Family Way from the Bible. The devotional provides questions to capture interest, a Bible passage to discuss, questions about the Bible passage and prayer suggestions. The book is geared more toward elementary age children, but even our 3 and 4 year olds are picking up much of what is being taught, and they can say most of the Family Ways, Bible verses and character traits and definitions with a few prompts. The book is designed for families to spend an entire week on each Family Way allowing your family a chance to really incorporate what is covered into your every day life. This also gives plenty of time to fully memorize and understand the Scripture passages. If your family works on one Family Way each week, this devotional will last for 24 weeks - that's almost 6 months! The book also includes coloring pages for each Family Way and ideas for "Our Family Way Notebooks." If you have children ages 6 or older, I would highly recommend you get a copy of this book and begin implementing it into your family devotional time. If you've never had a family devotional time, this would be an excellent tool to begin with. It's very easy to follow and doesn't take a lot of prep time. Our family is usually able to complete each day's devotional within 15 minutes (and we usually have quite a bit of "discussion time").

I will close by saying to all of us moms and dads that we must be actively and intentionally parenting. Our parents by no means "had it easy" when they were parenting, but the Mr. and I have noticed such an increase in the kind of temptations and the amount of temptations that are out there now. We, as parents, must teach our children to guard their hearts and to develop the character to be able to stand up - and to stand up alone, if necessary - for what is right. I do not believe that there is any way in this world that we as parents can fully shield our children from the world and all its temptations. Instead, we must teach them how to prepare for and fight against the temptations that they will, without a doubt, face. One of the best ways to do this is by surrounding our children with Scripture. Saturate them with it. Read it to them morning, noon and night. Memorize it with them. Your daily life needs to be completely centered around the Bible. Is this extreme? I don't believe so - especially when it's my children's lives that are at stake. We would do everything possible to keep our children from getting a deadly disease. Why are we not willing to do anything possible to keep them away from the deadly consequences of sin? Let's make sure that we as Christian parents diligently obey Deuteronomy 11:
Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
~ Deuteronomy 11:18-20

February 7, 2012

Meaty Corn Bread Casserole

We're still playing catch up from last week, but I thought I'd give you another Tummy Tempting Recipe. I hope you enjoy it, and I'll try to post some more thoughts later this week!

Meaty Corn Bread Casserole
This is a great all in one meal, and one of those yummy "comfort foods."

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage
1 3/4 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 cup water
1 envelope brown gravy mix**
1 package (8.5 oz) corn bread/muffin mix
1 tablespoon real bacon bits
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 envelope country gravy mix**

In a large skillet, cook beef and sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the corn, water and brown gravy mix. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Spoon into a greased 8 in. square baking dish.

Prepare corn bread batter according to directions; stir in the bacon bits, pepper and garlic powder. Spread over meat mixture.

Bake, uncovered, at 400* for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into corn bread layer comes out clean. Meanwhile, prepare country gravy mix according to package directions; serve with casserole.

**I have made both the brown and white country gravy from scratch (instead of buying the packaged gravy) with this recipe, and it works well.

February 3, 2012

At My Rope's End

Wow! This week has been a somewhat less than stellar week! (Great way to start a post, eh?) But, life is life, and life is real, and it's not always sweet and nice! One thing that I always want to be is real. So, you name it, and it has probably happened to us this week. Nights with little sleep, behind on school, bad attitudes (including mine), housework is...well, let's just not go there, trying to figure out how to pay an outrageous hospital bill (we probably shouldn't go there either), a tummy bug insists on continuing its stay in our house, and the list could go on.

Even though this week has not gone anything like I had planned, God has been growing me and stretching me. Yes, I'd rather skip all these nuisances and just grow without them, but that's not in God's plan. God's plan is to put me in a place where I depend on Him and Him alone - a place where I recognize that my efforts and abilities are nothing without Him. This week has also helped me see how much my kiddos mimic my reactions to problems when they have problems. Yep...we've had to do a lot of attitude adjusting this week.

But through this less than stellar week, God has been good and faithful as always. He kept bringing this verse to mind.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ II Corinthians 12:9
When I am at my rope's end, that's when He can show Himself the most - if I will let Him! I realize my problems are nothing compared to other people's. I hope this verse will be an encouragement and comfort to all of you whether you are facing small incidentals or huge impossibilities! God is ready to show Himself strong on our behalf, and He takes pleasure in doing that for us! (II Chronicles 16:9) Isn't God good? I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed weekend, and don't forget to stop and count the little blessings God brings your way (especially when you're at your rope's end). I've listed a few of mine below.

P.S. There's a new month on the Family Fun Page. If you are looking for something small but fun to do with your kiddos, you might check it out. I'd love to hear your Family Fun ideas too! :)

1. God's faithfulness
2. Kid's laughter
3. My Mr.'s wink
4. UNO Attack
5. My baby's smiles
6. The smell of clean laundry
7. A sunshiny day
8. Our nice car
9. Family dinner every night
10. God's Word